National Film Registry 2010

Newark Athlete (1891), one of five silent films included among the twenty-five films added to the National Film Registry for 2010

Once again at the end of the year we have the announcement of twenty-five further films added to the National Film Registry. Each year the Librarian of Congress (James H. Billington), with advice from the National Film Preservation Board (and with recommendations made by the public), names twenty-five American films deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant that are to be added to the National Film Registry, “to be preserved for all time”. The idea is that such films are not selected as the “best” American films of all time, but rather as “works of enduring significance to American culture”.

Five silent films are among the titles chosen for 2010, including two that have been championed in particular by the Bioscope: Preservation of the Sign Language, produced in 1913 in by National Association of the Deaf president George Veditz and one a of a number of films made by the Association at that time (available online from Gallaudet University); and the Miles Brothers’ haunting A Trip Down Market Street (1906), showing San Francisco just before the earthquake struck it. The others are Paul Fejos’ Lonesome (1928), which exists in both silent and sound versions, the William S. Hart western The Bargain (1914), and W.K.L. Dickson and William Heise’s 1891 proto-motion picture film experiment Newark Athlete, the oldest film to be added to the registry so far.

The other films on the 2010 list are Airplane! (1980), All the President’s Men (1976), Cry of Jazz (1959), Electronic Labyrinth: THX 113B 4EB (1967), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), The Exorcist (1973), The Front Page (1931), Grey Gardens (1976), I Am Joaquin (1969), It’s a Gift (1934), Let There Be Light (1945), McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971), Make Way for Tomorrow (1936), Malcolm X (1992), Our Lady of the Sphere (1969), The Pink Panther (1964), Saturday Night Fever (1977), Study of a River (1996), Tarantella (1940), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945).

The full list of films entered on the National Film Registry since 1989 can be found here, while this is the list of all silents (or films with some silent content) on the Registry 1989-2009:

Ben-Hur (1926)
Big Business (1929)
The Big Parade (1925)
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
The Black Pirate (1926)
Blacksmith Scene (1893)
The Blue Bird (1918)
Broken Blossoms (1919)
The Cameraman (1928)
The Cheat (1915)
The Chechahcos (1924)
Civilization (1916)
Clash of the Wolves (1925)
Cops (1922)
A Corner in Wheat (1909)
The Crowd (1928)
The Curse of Quon Gwon (1916-17)
Dickson Experimental Sound Film (1894-95)
The Docks of New York (1928)
Evidence of the Film (1913)
The Exploits of Elaine (1914)
Fall of the House of Usher (1928)
Fatty’s Tintype Tangle (1915)
Flesh and the Devil (1927)
Foolish Wives (1920)
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)
The Freshman (1925)
From the Manger to the Cross (1912)
The General (1927)
Gertie the Dinosaur (1914)
The Gold Rush (1925)
Grass (1925)
The Great Train Robbery (1903)
Greed (1924)
H20 (1929)
Hands Up (1926)
Hell’s Hinges (1926)
Heroes All (1920)
The Immigrant (1917)
In the Land of the Head Hunters (1914)
Intolerance (1916)
It (1927)
The Italian (1915)
Jeffries-Johnson World’s Championship Boxing Contest (1910)
The Kiss (1896)
Lady Helen’s Escapade (1909)
Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925)
Land Beyond the Sunset (1912)
The Last Command (1928)
The Last of the Mohicans (1920)
The Life and Death of 9413 – A Hollywood Extra (1927)
Little Nemo (1911)
The Lost World (1925)
Mabel’s Blunder (1914)
Making of an American (1920)
Manhatta (1921)
Matrimony’s Speed Limit (1913)
Mighty Like a Moose (1926)
Miss Lulu Bett (1922)
Nanook of the North (1922)
One Week (1920)
Pass the Gravy (1928)
Peter Pan (1924)
The Perils of Pauline (1914)
Phantom of the Opera (1925)
The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917)
Power of the Press (1928)
Precious Images (1986)
President McKinley Inauguration Footage (1901)
Princess Nicotine; or The Smoke Fairy (1909)
Regeneration (1915)
The Revenge of Pancho Villa (1930-36)
Rip Van Winkle (1896)
Safety Last (1923)
Salome (1922)
San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, April 18, 1906 (1906)
Seventh Heaven (1927)
Sherlock Jr. (1924)
Show People (1928)
Sky High (1922)
The Son of the Sheik (1926)
Stark Love (1927)
Star Theatre (1901)
The Strong Man (1926)
Sunrise (1927)
Tess of the Storm Country (1914)
There it is (1928)
The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
Tol’able David (1921)
Traffic in Souls (1913)
The Wedding March (1928)
Westinghouse Works, 1904 (1904)
Where Are My Children? (1916)
Wild and Wooly (1917)
The Wind (1928)
Wings (1927)
Within our Gates (1920)

The Library of Congress welcome suggestions from the public, and even provides a helpful list of titles not on the Registry yet but which are under consideration, to help prod your memories. It contains some 225 silent films alone, which suggests that they are not about to run out of ideas just yet.

But what about a world film registry, one which drew attention to world cinema (silents and beyond) and its need for preservation on account of its cultural, historical or aesthetic relevance? We have some films on UNESCO’s Memory of the World register, but that’s not really enough. Isn’t it the sort of thing that FIAF ought to promote?